How to Cross from Turkey to Iraq by Bus

If you’re planning on traveling overland from Turkey to Iraqs northern Kurdistan Region (Iraqi Kurdistan), I’ve got news for you! The days of being forced to use the taxi mafia to get across the border are over! Instead, you can travel across the border in style on a comfortable Turkish bus! How does it work?

Get Yourself to a City in the Turkey’s Southeast

Daily buses run from cities like Diyarbakir, Mardin and Midyat, where I caught my bus all the way to Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan, for a mere 55TL (US$29). In fact, the bus I was on goes all the way to Sulaymaniyah, stopping off in Erbil as well.

Midyat's Old City

The Old City in Midyat, Turkey

Do note that buses also stop in Cizre en route to the border.

Find a Bus Company Running to Iraq

I arrived in Midyat with no idea how to get a bus to Iraq. But I asked around at the bus station and was directed to a company called Yeni Midyat Seryahat. While I was told it ran daily, I couldn’t actually ride the bus the next day as it was broken down (or so I was told). After a bit of time spent on Google Translate (where the first question I was asked was “Why you go Iraq?”), I was given a ticket for another bus company, Can Diyarbakir Turizm, which was passing through on its way from Diyarbakir.

Bus Ticket for Iraq

My bus ticket to Iraqi Kurdistan, or, as the ticket says, to Duhok in “Irak”

What are Turkish Buses Like?

One word: awesome! They’ve got beverage service, super comfy seats, footrests and personal TVs in every seat (though on my bus, it was no “on-demand” as I’d seen on some other Turkish buses).

Iraq-bound Bus

My bus bound for “Irak”

Is Crossing the Border Easy?

Yes! Once we arrived in the Turkish border town of Silopi, it felt like a line of cars stretched 10km (6.2 miles) from Turkish immigration! Thankfully, the bus flew down its own designated lane. We parked at a large booth and all stood there in the middle of the road while waiting to hand our passports to the man in the booth and be stamped out of Turkey.

Approaching Iraq

Approaching the Turkey-Iraq border. Those mountains are across the border in Iraqi Kurdistan!

On the Iraqi side, we waited in a nice, air-conditioned arrivals hall (where apparently you’re even served tea at times, though this was not my experience). There you wait patiently while an automated voice calls names one by one alerting you that your passport is ready. Super simple. Almost no questions asked or documentation needed and I got my 10 days visa free!

Iraqi Arrivals Hall

The arrivals hall in Iraqi Kurdistan

Iraqi Kurdistan Passport Stamp

My passport stamp from Iraqi Kurdistan

Customs is what took a while. Not for us, but for all the cargo the bus was transporting across the border. I was kept amused by a jovial Kurdish soldier who took a liking to me and used his smattering of English to take it upon himself to start teaching me some Kurdish! He also kept going on about how good the U.S. is (remember, regardless of what you think of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, it was very good for the Kurds as Saddam Hussein tried to wipe them out).

Customs for Iraqi Kurdistan

This was where my bus stopped for customs

Getting Iraqi Dinar

Shortly after Iraqi immigration, we stopped at a convenience store where you could buy things in Turkish Lira and get Iraqi Dinar as change. This is something you SHOULD do as it’s good to have some Dinar if you need to get a cab somewhere before you get a chance to change more money, which brings me to my next point…

Iraqi Dinar

5,000 Iraqi Dinar, worth approximately US$4.30

How Was Arriving in Dohuk?

The bus dropped us off on the side of the highway that was some way from town. I split a cab with a few other locals to the market. I didn’t have much Dinar, just the stuff I had received for my Lira at the stop earlier but thankfully my cab-mates picked up most of the cost. Once in Dohuk I found a man with a large wad of cash (the sign of a money exchange place in Iraq) and picked up Dinar to pay for a place to sleep!

And that’s it! It’s that simple!

Read More About My Adventure in Iraq

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28 Responses to How to Cross from Turkey to Iraq by Bus

  1. Maria August 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    Another border crossing successfully navigated without incident or bribe. Kudos! *grin*

    • Aaron August 26, 2013 at 5:18 am #

      I’ve never bribed anyone to get across a border before…

      • Maria August 26, 2013 at 7:14 am #

        I know – very commendable.

  2. vagabondette mandy August 26, 2013 at 4:16 am #

    Very cool! I head to turkey in November and I can’t wait. Would like to go to Iraq but as a solo female american it doesn’t seem like a good idea. 🙂 you should consider submitting this to the travel blog carnival. Here is info on that http://t.co/CVMS4He6eV

    • Aaron August 26, 2013 at 5:21 am #

      I’ve heard about numerous solo females who have gone. And they LOVE Americans in Kurdistan. You have to remember that whatever you think of the U.S. invading Iraq in 2003, getting rid of Saddam Hussein was VERY good for the Kuds, as he tried to wipe them out. I will say though that, while I had a wonderfully social and wonderful experience, meeting loads of warm and friendly locals, I don’t think a woman would have quite the same experience, as it’s a highly gender-segregated society. You could always try it for a couple days and if you don’t like it, head back to Turkey!

  3. arif Hussain January 1, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    Very useful information! I am currently palanning to adopt a similar route to iraq form turkey. Thanx for sharing your experience, it would really help me allot.

    • Aaron January 2, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

      My pleasure! Good luck with your trip!

  4. jorge April 23, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    Hello Aaron,
    I am not an adventurer by visiting ordinary places, and I would like information I want to visit Kurdistan Iraq.
    information bus in and out to Erbil,
    regards
    George

    • Aaron May 12, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

      Hi George,

      The bus company I used was called Can Diyarbakir Turizm, which is based in Diyarbakir, Turkey. There are a number of other Turkish bus companies, many of which are also based in Diyarbakir that you could use as well.

  5. Pat October 23, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    Hello Aaron.
    I’m a little curious on how to obtain a passport to get into turkey and then get into Iraq. Could you email me some details? I just want to make sure I have all the legal requirements met on my end. Thanks!

    • Aaron October 23, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

      Hi Pat,

      Every single country has different visa rules for different nationalities, so it’s impossible to answer your question unless I know which country issues your passport.

      I traveled on an American passport and was able to obtain a visa on arrival in Turkey and was able to visit Iraqi Kurdistan for 10 days visa free (as in if you stay 10 days or less you don’t need a visa if you travel on a U.S. Passport). However rules for other nationalities are different.

  6. Pat October 23, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    Okay that pretty much answers my question. I will also be traveling from America.
    So just to clarify, I just have to obtain an American passport, and I can travel to turkey, then from Turkey to Iraq (10 days visa free)?
    What if I wish to stay in Iraq longer than 10 days?

    • Aaron November 12, 2014 at 12:02 am #

      You can travel to Iraqi Kurdistan for 10 days visa free. The visa is NOT valid for travel in the Arab sections of Iraq. If you wish to stay for longer than 10 days, you can visit the Directorate of Residence in Erbil for an extension valid in the Kurdish region only. If you wish to travel in other parts of Iraq (which I wouldn’t recommend at the moment) you would need to visit an Iraqi embassy and apply for a visa there.

  7. Robert November 10, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    Hello Aaron,

    How are you? I was glad to find your site. Its a world away from what I expected. Could I speak to you privately via my e-mail? I have some questions regarding a possible trip to Sulaymaniyah.

    would be grateful for some advice.

    Thank You

    • Aaron November 12, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

      I sent you an email.

  8. Arnold November 11, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    When you crossed the border Did they ask how long your visit in Kurdistan would be? And why you att visiting?

    • Aaron November 11, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

      Not that I can remember. I believe they just asked for my name.

  9. Romeo April 20, 2016 at 6:18 pm #

    hi this is quite interesting. is it any body got any info about how to drive over land from UK to Kurdistan Iraq by car UK registered as i am planning to drive from uk to Kurdistan Iraq all i know get the ferry from Dover to France and from France to drive all EU countries to turkey country than from turkey to Kurdistan Iraq but as it will be my first time to drive from UK to Kurdistan Iraq. as it would be much easier if some one got some information about it as i would be appreciated . my self,wife and our children are all got a UK passports . i hope some one got a good info about this trip as it will be much easier with some advice. many thanks

    • Aaron April 24, 2016 at 7:05 pm #

      I can’t speak to this all that much, but do look into the requirements for bringing a car into all the countries that you will be passing through. Often vehicles have their own paperwork that is totally separate from that of the people riding inside them. And I do hope you plan to stop and do some sightseeing along the way! Turkey is particularly spectacular!

  10. MS October 13, 2016 at 6:25 am #

    Thanks so much for all of these wonderful posts on Kurdistan. I have been contemplating taking a job there and your info has made me very excited about the prospect.

    • Aaron November 21, 2016 at 12:18 am #

      My pleasure. That said, while I had a really phenomenal experience, I would not have had the same experience had I been a woman. Kurdistan is quite segregated by gender and men and women do not socialize. I also heard some stories from women who taught at my friend’s school about how local men tried to get away with things with foreign women that would be extremely inappropriate for them to do with local women. Just something to be mindful of.

      • MS November 21, 2016 at 2:20 am #

        Thanks for the additional info. I will keep it in mind for the future as the situation in Mosul has presently resulted in a change of plans.

  11. pasquale October 5, 2017 at 5:48 am #

    Now is 30 day free visa to visit Kurdistan for Eu and others.,you can have to the border easily,no question.I’m in Erbil now.

    • Aaron November 15, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

      Wow glad to hear they increased it from 10 days!

  12. Lorna Guinn October 11, 2017 at 6:59 am #

    We are planning of fly to Mardin in Turkey and cross the border to kurdistan as the erbil airport and sulimani airports are shut. I know that coming via airport this year one could get a thirty date visa to stay in Kurdistan but now , I need to visit family at Christmas in Dohuk , can we still cross to Kurdistan via Turkey, any ideas , what if they shut the land borders too whilst we are there.?

    • Aaron November 15, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

      Last I heard the Turkish and Iranian borders were closed, as was the airport in Erbil. This may change by the time Christmas rolls around.

      • George November 17, 2017 at 3:29 am #

        Hi Aaron, where did you hear that? Im in Diyarbakir now and I would like to go to Erbil on monday. Any info please? Thanks

        • Aaron January 20, 2018 at 12:48 pm #

          As per my Kurdish friend in Erbil, the land border with Turkey has reopened, but the airports remain closed. Hope you made it across just fine!

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